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Tribute to Edith Fowke

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by WFMC Board Secretary, Robin Collins

Edith (Margaret) Fowke (nee Fulton) CM, was born in Lumsden, Saskatchewan in 1913 and died in Toronto in 1996. In her will, she generously contributed to several organizations, including the World Federalist Movement – Canada, for which we are very grateful.

Edith Fowke was a well-known folklorist and author of more than twenty books on Canadian folk music but also American, Irish and English folk songs.

Some of her research collected children’s rhymes, games and game chants. She was a founding member of the Canadian Folk Music Society, and edited its publication, the Canadian Folk Music Journal.

After working for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), an interest in the songs and tales of working people, including labour and protest music developed. Fowke described herself this way: as “political and pacifist….For a dozen years…I spent most of my time working for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, … the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Co-operative Committee for Japanese Canadians, the Canadian Forum, and the Woodsworth Memorial Foundation.”

She married Frank Fowke in 1938, and from the mid-1940s began to collect and record folksinging, while preparing material and hosting for CBC radio programs from 1950 into the mid-1970s.

Edith Fowke edited and contributed to several periodicals and received several awards for her groundbreaking work. Among her best known books were Songs of Work and Freedom ed. with Joe Glazer (1960), Sally Go Round the Sun: 300 Songs, Rhymes and Games of Canadian Children (1969), The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs (1973), Folktales of French Canada (1979), Canadian Folklore (1988), and Red Rover, Red Rover: Children’s Games Played in Canada (1988). Edith Fowke’s recordings are held by the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, and at York University library.

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